Broadway in Cincinnati’s Matilda Shows the Dark Side of Growing Up
Posted On July 7, 2017
Review by Alan Jozwiak of Matilda, The Musical: Broadway in Cincinnati
The search for acceptance by those around you is central to Matilda: the Musical, the latest offering by Broadway in Cincinnati presented by TriHealth.
Based off the Roald Dahl book by the same name, the musical tells the story of Matilda (played in the performance I saw by the wonderful Jaime McLean) who goes to a new school and has to contend with her nemesis, the aptly named Miss Trunchibull (wonderfully played in drag by Dan Chameroy). Added to her woes are her neglectful parents Mr. and Mrs. Wormword (played by Matt Harrington and Darcy Stewart) who berate her by calling her names. They try to steer her away from reading and towards more productive entertainments–like watching the television.
Keeping with the trend this Broadway season to present musicals which have strong performers for their lead roles, Jaime McLean was simply wonderful as one of the three child actors who plays Matilda. McLean is on stage for a majority of the time, singing and dancing her heart out all during that time. Whenever she was on stage, McLean was a bright ray of light in a world that does not respect the talents of her character Matilda.
Also strong was Dan Chameroy as Miss Trunchibull. When Chameroy first came on stage, I almost didn’t realize that he was playing drag; he was so much in character that it took me a moment to recognize that it was a male actor. By the end of the musical, Chameroy really delivers a portrait of a detestable character. Chameroy perfectly captures Trunchibull’s cool detachment as she sends students to the chokey, a form of extreme punishment that is best explained by the actors in the musical.
As for the set, it was stripped down to accommodate quick changes from Matilda’s house, to the library, to her school–and back again. There were some very interesting uses of the set elements given, such as during “School Song” where the cast placed alphabet blocks into the various holes within the school gates. Also the alphabet block motif was reproduced when Matilda visited her local library, a very nice touch.
This musical was a faithful adaptation of the Dahl novel, which could be problematic for younger audience members. The show runs close to three hours long, making it hard for the children seeing it. As an audience member, I also had some difficulties with the child abuse being depicted by the adults. To alleviate those concerns of like audience-members, the actor playing Matilda’s father Mr. Wormood (the wonderfully coiffed Matt Harrington) comes onto the stage at the top of Act II to reassure the audiences that things are okay with the children.
Overall, this is a strong production of a faithful adaptation of a beloved children’s book. People who love the book Matilda and Roald Dahl need to see this musical. Matilda: The Musical runs from April 4-16, 2016 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. For ticketing information, please visit the Broadway in America website.